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Tanner Gift of Music: Berlioz's 'Requiem'

When composer Hector Berlioz published his "Requiem" in 1837, he noted that "if space permits, the chorus may be doubled or tripled, and the orchestra be proportionally increased." Doubtless, Berlioz would have approved of the performance of his masterwork on Sept. 16 and 17 by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

Conductor Thierry Fischer leads the Utah Symphony and Mormon Tabernacle Choir in performance of "Requiem" by Hector Berlioz at Sept. 16 performance in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the latest offering in the Tanner Gift of Music series. Tuesday, Sept.20, 2011.
Conductor Thierry Fischer leads the Utah Symphony and Mormon Tabernacle Choir in performance of "Requiem" by Hector Berlioz at Sept. 16 performance in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the latest offering in the Tanner Gift of Music series. Tuesday, Sept.20, 2011. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

The choir, of course is comprised of about 375 voices nearly double the 200 that the published score calls for. And the symphony, considered one of Utah's cultural treasures, was an appropriate partner to the choir for this performance.

The occasion was the latest in the Tanner Gift of Music Concert series, which, every two or three years teams the choir and the Utah Symphony in a collaboration presented as a free gift to the community.

Conductor Thierry Fischer leads the Utah Symphony and Mormon Tabernacle Choir in performance of "Requiem" by Hector Berlioz at Sept. 16 performance in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the latest offering in the Tanner Gift of Music series. Tuesday, Sept.20, 2011.
Conductor Thierry Fischer leads the Utah Symphony and Mormon Tabernacle Choir in performance of "Requiem" by Hector Berlioz at Sept. 16 performance in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the latest offering in the Tanner Gift of Music series. Tuesday, Sept.20, 2011. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

Obert C. Tanner, founder of the O.C. Tanner Co. in Salt Lake City, was a philanthropist as well as a businessman. He conceived of the concert series in cooperation with his friend, President Gordon B. Hinckley, said Scott Barrick, general manager of the choir.

Today, his widow, Grace, and their extended family continue to carry on his legacy through the concert series. Since 1983, there have been 15 Tanner Gift of Music concerts presented, including this latest one, which is the second time since 1994 that the Belioz "Requieum" has been presented as a Tanner concert.

This year's offering was presented under the baton of Thierry Fischer, the Swiss conductor who is in his first full season as music director of the Utah Symphony.

By definition a requiem is mass celebrated to honor the dead. It always includes the Latin phrase requiem aeternam which means "eternal rest."

Berlioz' requiem was commissioned by Adrien de Gasparin, France's minister of the interior, to honor those killed while defending King Louis-Philippe from an unsuccessful assassination attempt in 1835, according to notes in the printed program by Luke Howard.

Thus, the grandeur of the Berlioz' 10-movement composition, first performed on Dec. 5, 1837, is due to patriotic as much as to religious fervor.

The music is alternately somber and majestic as the text anticipates the day of judgement and beseeches salvation for the penitent soul, as reflected in this passage, rendered in English from the Latin:

Faint and weary, Thou has sought me;

On the cross of suffering brought me,

Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous judge of retribution,

Grant Thy gift of absolution,

Ere that reckoning day's conclusion!

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